The Top 6 Manufacturing Challenges & Potential Solutions

Nearly one-third of manufacturers say they don’t feel positive about their company’s future, according to the National Manufacturers Association. Why? There are numerous manufacturing problems brought on by global unrest, political reforms, tariffs, climate shifts, labor shortages, and more. 

Read on to learn about the greatest manufacturing sector challenges. Plus, glean insights into potential solutions and the role the construction industry will play.

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1. Supply Chain Disruption

Supply chain management issues continue to impact 37.8% of manufacturing companies, and supply chain disruption increased during the first half of 2023. Not only are materials harder to come by, their costs have escalated. For 2023, 71% of global companies cited raw material costs as their number one supply chain threat. 

But not all the news is dire. The lumber shortage has waned and prices have eased to pre-pandemic levels. Steel shortages remain, however, and continue to impact the construction industry. 

Some organizations waited to start their expansion projects due to rising construction material costs. But manufacturing businesses also need to keep other factors in mind, such as rising interest rates, potential lost revenue, and more.

The “real time” manufacturing mindset and limited inventories exposed vulnerabilities in manufacturing supply chains. Companies with the financial means are considering returning to the days of stocking up on inventories, increasing a demand for more warehouse space.  

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2. Labor Shortage

Even if manufacturers have the raw materials, they likely don’t have enough people to keep their production lines running. The competition for skilled workers is fierce. According to the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, manufacturers will need to fill 4 million jobs by 2030. If more individuals don’t pursue modern manufacturing, 2.1 million of those jobs could go unfilled. 

Providing competitive pay, benefits, and a positive culture is a given. A top challenge when recruiting younger workers is the negative industry perception. Potential recruits have visions of dirty, hot, and noisy working conditions on the production floor. Meanwhile, office workers typically benefit from a clean, climate-controlled working environment.

Many manufacturers are looking to update their aging facilities to combat stereotypes. A clean, state-of-the-art working environment with climate control, pleasing aesthetics, good lighting, comfortable break rooms, and technological capabilities to reduce physical strain is critical for attracting and retaining good workers.

3. Worker Safety Issues in Manufacturing Industry

Manufacturers have a heightened awareness of protecting their workforces from potential health risks. Minimizing trip and fall hazards and following other OSHA safety regulation requirements continues to be a priority, in addition to:

  • Implementing lockout/tagout procedures
  • Routine equipment maintenance
  • Regular inspections and maintenance of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Safety training, including emergency response, hazard identification,and safety procedures
  • Providing ergonomic workspaces to reduce fatigue, discomfort, and injury
  • Promoting a safety culture that encourages workers to speak up and identify potential hazards

Improving air quality within manufacturing facilities by upgrading HVAC systems, air flow, and filters is another way to support a healthy work environment on the production floor

Changes to corporate office design also needs to be considered. Improving floor plans, HVAC systems, and features can be accomplished by working with a qualified construction manager that provides all-in-one holistic solutions.

4. Emerging Technologies & Cybersecurity

One way that manufacturers attempt to overcome the labor shortage is through technology. While robotics have long performed some human functions in manufacturing, there is renewed interest in investing in more types of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies. Notably, 86% of manufacturing executives in one survey believe that smart factory solutions will be the primary drivers of competitiveness in the next five years.

With a growing number of connected devices and technological advances, however, comes the need for greater cybersecurity. Many manufacturers still use legacy systems, while others have fully adopted new technologies. Both pose risks, and maintaining multiple layers of security, including firewalls, multi-factor authentication, facial recognition software, 24/7 monitoring, and more are critical in today’s highly digital landscape. 

Updating secure, climate-controlled server rooms is also a critical step in protecting sensitive equipment and ensuring security. The greatest measure against cyberattacks, however, remains educating employees on how to recognize phishing scams and other nefarious activities.

5. Capacity Constraints

Recent events have prompted a call for more “Made in America” products. It’s one reason investments in semiconductor and clean technology manufacturing nearly doubled since 2021, according to Deloitte. In stride, annual construction spending and capital expenditures are expected to continue to rise.

The need for more space on the manufacturing floor is being offset by a reduced demand for office space, as some administrative personnel continue to work from home. Many organizations are reorganizing floor plans, remodeling, and investing in more tech-friendly furnishings that accommodate video conferencing and collaborative technologies. 

Some capital expenditures are being spent on consolidating office space and converting a portion of it into production space. Others choose to configure flexible modular offices into their production floor plan to bring engineers, project managers, and production teams together. Expecting growth, many will expand or build new facilities as part of their long-range planning. 

In either scenario, it’s critically important to work with a qualified construction manager and a commercial furniture consultant to strategize the best steps moving forward. They can also help an organization maximize existing space until it’s time to build.

6. Finding the Right Construction Partner

Some manufacturing organizations are concerned there is a shortage of construction firms with the capacity to do specialty or small projects. But if you’re considering building, expanding, or remodeling your manufacturing facility in Wisconsin or Iowa, know that The Samuels Group is ready to serve you. Our collaborative team develops a strategic plan that works with your budget so you can face today’s challenges and reach your long-term growth goals.  

Reach out to the building and furniture solutions experts at The Samuels Group today. Whether a small project, a major build, or a fresh look, our experienced team of designers, engineers, estimators, contractors, project managers, and workplace consultants are available to help. 

Not sure now is the right time? Use our checklist below to help you examine all the factors that go into making a construction decision.

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